Do You Need Religion to Have Morals?

Alan responds to an atheist's challenge: "You don't need religion to have morals. If you can't determine right from wrong then you lack empathy, not religion." 




00:06 Here's a challenge I've been asked to respond to. People say, "You don't need

00:10 religions to have morals. If you can't determine right from wrong, then you lack

00:14 empathy, not religion." Now to be fair, there is some truth to what this person

00:19 is saying, right? I mean, someone without any religious convictions can certainly

00:23 have morals, right? They can have a set of rights and wrongs that they live by, they

00:27 can abstain from lying, they can feed the poor, they can do good or evil, right? I'll

00:32 give them that. But there is at least two problems with

00:36 this claim. The first is this: It's simply the fact that this challenge is a straw

00:41 man, meaning it misrepresents at least the Christian

00:45 claim. Christians, for example, are not claiming that non-religious people don't

00:50 or can't have morals. The real question is, how does a person who doesn't believe

00:55 in God provide a foundation for objective morality? This, of course, leads

01:00 me to the second problem with this claim. That is, if morals are just a human

01:04 invention created by each individual or even by each society, then it's

01:09 impossible that morals are objective, and by objective morals I mean something is

01:14 right or wrong independent of whether anyone believes that or not. For example,

01:19 slavery is objectively wrong. That means owning slaves is wrong even when society

01:24 believed it was right and passed laws to protect the right to own slaves. Now, for

01:29 believers in God, the wrongness of slavery is grounded in God's unchanging

01:32 standard, but if there's no God, how is it possible that slavery is objectively

01:37 wrong? All you can say is, "I think slavery is wrong, or society says slavery is

01:42 wrong." But if you change your mind or society changes their mind, then slavery

01:46 can become a moral good. That means morals ultimately are relative, or we

01:51 call that moral relativism. Slavery then isn't inherently wrong, it's only wrong

01:56 when society says it's wrong. So going back to the original challenge where

02:00 they say, "You don't need a religion to have morals. If you can't determine right

02:04 from wrong then you lack empathy, not religion." Well, if by morals they mean

02:08 moral relativism, then I agree with them. You don't eat religion

02:11 for moral relativism. But then their view says that nothing is inherently

02:16 wrong, it's just wrong because society says so at the time, and that hardly

02:20 demonstrates empathy.

video |
Alan Shlemon